What is Domain Forwarding?

28 Feb 2017 / Aliesha Ellington

When you move house, it’s common to have your mail forwarded to your new address. Things are no different in the online world, and domain forwarding is much the same concept as mail forwarding.

To forward a domain, you simply set up a rule that when someone visits a particular domain name, they will be redirected to a website at a different domain name. You do have to be the owner of the domain name that will be redirected to do this, but you don’t necessarily need to own the domain that it is forwarding to. It is better to own both however, as certain issues may arise otherwise.  

How Domain Forwarding Works

Domain forwarding is quite easy. The specific steps may change depending on the site ofyour domain registrar, but the basic idea is the same. For example, on the Freeparking website all you have to do is:

  1. Log into your account.
  2. Go to the ‘Services’ tab and select manage next to the domain that you want to redirect.
  3. Go to the tab labelled ‘Service Management’ and locate the URL redirection section and click on ‘Modify’.
  4. Go to the advanced options on the ‘Edit URL Redirection’ page.
  5. Enter the web address you’d like the domain name to be redirected to in the ‘Redirection to (URL):’ field.
  6. Select a redirection method from the redirection method drop down box. 301 redirection is the recommended option if the forwarding is to be permanent.
  7. Click on save and the changes will take effect immediately.

Note that the forwarding process doesn’t always happen immediately for all registrars, with some requiring a few hours for the changes to take effect.

Types of Domain Forwarding

301 Redirects
A 301 redirect is used if you’d like to let a search engine know that the domain in question will be permanently redirected to the new site, as this ensures that the search engines index the new site properly.

This type of redirection helps if you’d like the SEO efforts (usually called SEO juice) from the previous site to also be transferred to the new site.

302 Redirects
This is also known as temporary web forwarding. This method is the preferred option if you are likely to change your forwarding options in the near future. This type of redirect tells the search engine to keep checking the domain.

This type of redirect will prevent the proper indexing of the new site since it’s considered temporary. If you’re not sure which option to go for, it is better to use 301 redirects.

Forwarding without Masking
When you’re redirecting your visitors to a new site, forwarding without masking means that when the visitors land on the new page, the new page’s correct URL will be displayed on their address bar.

Forwarding with Masking
In this case, when your visitors are redirected to a new URL, their address bar will still display the URL that they had originally put into the address bar. This means that the visitors will not know that they are on a different site.

Why Would You Need Domain Forwarding?

Domain forwarding seems like it can be a rather messy process because it involves users starting at one point and ending up elsewhere. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the right domain right from the beginning?

Whilst it would be best to have visitors using the correct domain name, there are many different scenarios where this may not be feasible.

  1. Similar domain names
    If there is a domain name that is similar to the one you’re currently using and you’ve realized a lot of visitors are accidentally typing the other domain name, you can register the other domain name and have it forward visitors to the real site.
    A site owner may also register the other top level domains (TLDs) for their domain name to prevent other people from registering the same. Rather than have them sitting idle, you could forward them to the original TLD you’ve been using instead.
  2. Migrating to a new domain
    It’s not unusual to want to change your domain name at some point in the future. This is likely to happen in case you hurriedly picked your initial domain name, or if you rebrand the business. If your original domain name had significant traffic, or if you had done a lot with regard to SEO, you wouldn’t want to lose this when you move to the new site.
    In such a case, the easiest solution would be to have the other site redirected to your new one. If Google already indexed the old site, simply transferring your files to a new domain name can result in a duplicate content penalty. In such a case, forwarding is still your best option.
  3. URL Shortening
    A webpage on your site may have a long URL and this may not be pleasing to look at or even easy to recall. In such a case, you can have a short, more aesthetically pleasing URL that redirects visitors to the longer URL.
  4. Device or Location Specific sites
    If you’ve ever wondered why a site such as www.facebook.com changes to m.facebook.com when you’re accessing it on your phone, it’s because there are systems at play that can tell you’re using a mobile device.

Many websites have a mobile friendly version nowadays. Since people may be switching from these mobile devices to their PCs and vice versa, they may not want to memorize both versions of the URL. The solution to this is to have the user redirected to the site that suits their device.

The same process is done with websites that have different versions for different geographical areas.

Domain forwarding provides a quick and efficient way of getting your site visitors to where you need them. For whatever reason you are using domain forwarding, getting your visitors where they need to be can have a great impact on your business. 

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